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Posted 06/05/04


I am blessed to have the best team of regular contributors to this site ever assembled.  They have willingly gotten to know each other and diligently worked together through email to keep me informed on such a wide variety of educational facts and opinions.  Even though I have let them all down over the last many months by failing to publish so much of their work, they continue to hang with me and allow the quality of this site to improve with every update.  The past six months has been complicated by another major move for me and several massive computer crashes.  If not for the efforts and cooperation of my brother, The Wise One and especially Josh Duncan, this page would have been lost to me.  This installment of the Study Page is proof positive that our aim is to provide a unique point of view in as informative a format as possible.   A special thanks to Ken and Josh for this material.   DebV


What follows is an article sent to me from a Muslim I have come to know through the internet. Josh is his name and he is a retired Marine. To me this article illustrates exactly why the Founding Fathers intended for our government to be based on the equality of the individual and not specific organizations - religious or otherwise. Comments from this point are his and the article text from Mr. Short.  Ken

None of the following is found in the Holy Koran.

The Jizyah Tax:
Equality And Dignity Under Islamic Law?
Walter Short


It is an oft-repeated assertion of Muslims that other faith-communities have always been treated with respect and dignity in a genuine Islamic State. Indeed, as one peruses Islamic literature, this claim is noticeable for the frequency of its presence. For example, the Muslim author Suzanne Haneef states about Islam's attitude to other religious communities:

...Islam does not permit discrimination in the treatment of other human beings on the basis of religion or any other criteria... it emphasizes neighborliness and respect for the ties of relationship with non-Muslims ...within this human family, Jews and Christians, who share many beliefs and values with Muslims, constitute what Islam terms Ahl al-Kitab, that is, People of the Scripture, and hence Muslims have a special relationship to them as fellow "Scriptuaries".

Similarly, the German convert Ahmed von Denffer, examining the position of Christians in Islam, states that 'It is thus clear that, seen from the legal perspective, Christians are entitled to have their own prescriptions.'  [2]  From what he terms 'the Societal Perspective', he tackles the problem of Surah Maidah 5:51 which warns against taking Jews and Christians as 'friends':

On the other hand, Christians being ahl al-kitab may not be harassed or molested for being non-Muslims. It is true that the Qur'an warns against taking Jews and Christians as friends, but that does not mean they should be molested or harmed because of their being non-Muslims.

So far, all very positive, but both Haneef and von Denffer are Muslims residing in the West, thus interacting with Christians, and addressing a Western audience. Thus, their approach will be conditioned by that reality. A somewhat different attitude is exhibited by a Muslim writer based in Saudi Arabia, a state governed largely by Islamic law, and which forbids all expressions of religious liberty:

In a country ruled by Muslim authorities, a non-Muslim is guaranteed his freedom of faith.... Muslims are forbidden from obliging a non-Muslim to embrace Islam, but he should pay the tribute to Muslims readily and submissively, surrender to Islamic laws, and should not practice his polytheistic rituals openly.
[4]  (Emphasis mine)

In this paper I will examine aspects of Islam's attitude to non-Muslims, especially the Jizyah tax, to consider whether Haneef's claim in particular is valid. My emphasis will be on Islamic law, since that practically regulates everyday relations. Since Muslims in the West, as much as in the Muslim world uphold the divine character of the Shari'ah, based as it is primarily on the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and uphold the Islamic State with Islamic Law as the ideal society, it is important to see what this would mean in practice for non-Muslims, if the Caliphate was ever restored and applied to the West.

1. The value of human life

In the West, at least in constitution terms, however inadequately outworked in practice in some places, the equality of human beings is a fundamental assumption - 'all men are equal before the law'. For this reason, Justice is often depicted in statues as blindfolded; the class, religion or race of anyone is irrelevant - the law, at least in terms of its goal, applies equally to everyone, and safeguards everyone equally.
In Islamic law, however, this is simply not the case. The life of a Muslim is considered superior to that of a non-Muslim, so much so that whilst a non-Muslim killing a Muslim would be executed, the reverse would not occur.
[5]  This is despite the fact that murder is normally considered a capital offence in Islam, with regular executions in most Muslim states. This inequity is also demonstrable in the blood rate paid to non-Muslims where murder or injury has occurred, which is half that of a Muslim. [6]  Effectively, this ruling means that a Muslim need not fear the usual retribution for murder if he kills a non-Muslim. The law deliberately and consciously does not protect non-Muslims as it does Muslims. The position of Islamic law is not that human life is sacred, but that Muslim life is so.

2. The value of evidence

What we have just stated about Justice becomes very pertinent when considering evidence in a court. Haneef's assertions can be immediately questioned by pointing to the fact that in Islam, the court testimony of a non-Muslim is considered inferior to that of a Muslim, a practice given official sanction in countries like Pakistan.
[7]  This means in practice that if a Muslim offends in some way against a Christian, whether by stealing from the latter, inflicting injury or even committing rape, the Christian must gain at least another Christian witness even to match the testimony of the Muslim, and even then in practice the assumption is that the latter is a more credible witness. This rule also carries the insulting presumption that non-Muslims are intrinsically dishonest, and unreliable witnesses per se.

Obviously, this considerably disadvantages non-Muslims, and becomes of practical import when we consider the frequent charges of blasphemy used by Muslims against Christians in places like Pakistan, which usually have an ulterior motive (often personal or land disputes). Legal conditions such as these give unscrupulous Muslims the idea that it is 'open season' on minorities. A similar ruling endangers the inheritance rights of Christian wives of Muslims.
[8]  Again, this gives opportunity to dishonest Muslim relatives of a widow.

3. The value of human dignity

What we have just examined becomes very important when we consider the issue of human dignity. It almost naturally follows that if the life of a non-Muslim is considered inferior to that of a Muslim, the dignity of the former will be held in the same lack of esteem. Rape in most Muslim countries usually results in execution for the offender where the victim is a Muslim. Where the victim is a non-Muslim, and the perpetrator is a Muslim, this is not the case.
[9]  Thus, the honour of a Christian woman is not considered equal to that of a Muslim woman. This ruling is quite chilling.

A particularly objectionable ruling concerns the Christian wife of a Muslim man. Their difference in religion precludes their common burial place. Moreover, if she be pregnant at time of death, the foetus, being considered Muslim, cannot be buried in a Christian cemetery, and thus the woman may not be buried there either, and so must be buried in a 'neutral' place.
[10]  Even in death, Christians are sometimes denied dignity.

4. The value of human property

The right to the defense of personal property is usually considered a fundamental liberty, and its violation by theft is punishable in all societies, again, irrespective of the religious identity of the thief or his victim. This is not the case in all circumstance in Islamic law. The situation is somewhat ambiguous at times, especially if items haram to Muslims are concerned.

Another ruling, however, suggests that if a Muslim stole an item from a Christian, such as a gold crucifix, and then stated that he did so in order to destroy this 'infidel' object, he may escape prosecution. [12]  Hence, there is nothing clear-cut in Islamic law which protects the property of Christian subjects, as would be the case in most Western systems which protects all property per se, whatever people's race or faith.

5. Religious liberty

Most Western constitutions today guarantee complete religious liberty, in opinion, practice and propagation. A person is perfectly free to hold or change his opinions, or even hold no religious opinions whatsoever. Under Islamic law, however, this is not the case. Whilst a person may be free to be a Muslim, Jew, Christian or Zoroastrian, he may not hold other religious opinions, as the ban on paganism illustrates.

Moreover, whilst a non-Muslim may change his religion to Islam or one other 'Scriptuary' faith, a Muslim who converts from Islam faces execution. [14]  It follows from this that Christians are forbidden to proselytize Muslims, though no such reciprocal ban exists on Muslims. This also affects marriages, since if a Muslim apostatizes, the marriage is dissolved, and there is at least one recent example of this in Egypt, where a liberal Muslim was declared apostate by a court, and his marriage dissolved, necessitating the couple's removal to the West, illustrating that the ruling is not merely theoretical. [15] 

Most blatantly, whilst the post-war era, especially since the 1970s, have seen an energetic upsurge of mosque construction in the West, there has been no corresponding development in Christian religious buildings in the Muslim world, since Islamic law permits only the repair of existing buildings, forbidding the construction of new ones. [16]  The same ruling forbids any Christian presence whatsoever in the Arabian peninsula, so we can see the anomaly that whereas the Saudis recently constructed a giant mosque in Rome, there is no possibility of reciprocity for the Roman Catholics (or anyone else) to build even the smallest chapel in Saudi Arabia. The issue is not simply one of reciprocity; national Christians in the Muslim world are denied this right as well, whereas Muslims may freely construct mosques.

6. The Jizyah Tax

The American Revolution was fought on the principle 'no taxation without representation', the idea being that constitutional equality was a precondition for the sovereign exercise of levying taxes. The only basis for different levels of taxation is socio-economic distinction, but even here the tax is identical in character, is levied without regard for one's communal origins. The principle of distinction in progressive taxation is ability to pay. The tax imposed does not punish a businessman for his success. Refusal to pay will result in fines or imprisonment, but never execution. Furthermore, the tax he pays grants him entitlement to the full protection of the state, and thus full and equal citizenship. The goal of the tax is the same with everyone - the enabling of the state to provide for the security and well being of all its citizens.

This is not the case with the Jizyah, which is a tax that the Dhimmi uniquely had to pay. It has its origins in Surah Tauba 9:29, where it is explicitly revealed as a sign of the subjugation of conquered non-Muslims.
[17]  Hence, the tax is clearly a tribute, and a sign of subjection, in no way equivalent to the alms tax Zakat. Yusuf Ali's comment on the Jizyah clarifies this:

1281 Jizya: the root meaning is compensation. The derived meaning, which became the technical meaning, was a poll-tax levied from those who did not accept Islam, but were willing to live under the protection of Islam, and were thus tacitly willing to submit to its ideals being enforced in the Muslim State. There was no amount permanently fixed for it. It was in acknowledgment that those whose religion was tolerated would in their turn not interfere with the preaching and progress of Islam. Imam Shafi'i suggests one dinar per year, which would be the Arabian gold dinar of the Muslim States. The tax varied in amount, and there were exemptions for the poor, for females and children (according to Abu Hanifa), for slaves, and for monks and hermits. Being a tax on able-bodied males of military age, it was in a sense a commutation for military service. But see the next note. (9.29)
1282 'An Yadin (literally, from the hand) has been variously interpreted. The hand being the symbol of power and authority. I accept the interpretation "in token of willing submission." The Jizya was thus partly symbolic and partly a commutation for military service, but as the amount was insignificant and the exemptions numerous, its symbolic character predominated. See the last note. (9.29)

Abul 'Ala Mawdudi, Qur'anic exegete and founder of the Islamist Pakistani group Jama'at-i-Islami was quite unapologetic about Jizyah:

...the Muslims should feel proud of such a humane law as that of Jizya. For it is obvious that a maximum freedom that can be allowed to those who do not adopt the way of Allah but choose to tread the ways of error is that they should be tolerated to lead the life they like.

He interprets the Qur'anic imperative to Jihad as having the aim of subjugating non-Muslims, to force them to pay the Jizyah as the defining symbol of their subjection:

... Jews and the Christians ...should be forced to pay Jizya in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith, who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the Right Way.

The consequence of this is that in an Islamic State - specifically the Khilafah - non-Muslims should be denied Government posts, since the state exists for the Muslims, who alone are true citizens, whilst the non-Muslims are merely conquered residents, and the Jizyah signifies this:

That is why the Islamic state offers them protection, if they agree to live as Zimmis by paying Jizya, but it can not allow that they should remain supreme rulers in any place and establish wrong ways and establish them on others. As this state of things inevitably produce chaos and disorder, it is the duty of the true Muslims to exert their utmost to bring an end to their wicked rule and bring them under a righteous order.

Differences of taxation demonstrate distinctions in citizenship. As a symbol of subjection, it signifies that the state is not really the common property of all its permanent residents, but only the Muslims. The non-Muslims are conquered outsiders. It demonstrates their inferior condition. It also punishes them for their disbelief in Islam. Islamic law makes it very clear that the Jizyah is punitive in character. [21]  Further, it is to be levied with humiliation. [22]  Hence, it is in no way comparable to Western tax systems. Even progressive taxation is not a 'punishment' for economic success, nor is any tax specifically humiliating in character.
This illustrates that essentially, in an Islamic State, the non-Muslims are in a worse situation than prisoners out on parole, since they are still being punished - they are not considered 'good, law-abiding citizens' however exemplary their conduct, but rather criminals given day-leave. Their crime is their faith.
[23]  Moreover, their crime is capital in nature - they deserve death. [24]  This demonstrates the unique character of the Jizyah tax - unlike Western taxes, payment does not grant equality and liberty to the payee, but rather merely permission for another tax period to live; failure to pay it results in death. Again, it is rather analogous to a convict on parole regularly visiting the police station or parole officer to register. This is different from the case of someone in the West who refuses to pay his tax for whatever reason; he is punished, though it must be stated not by execution, for breaking the law. The reverse is true with the Jizyah - the tax itself is punishment, and the payee lives in the permanent condition of being punished for his faith until he converts. Essentially, non-Muslims live under a permanent death-threat.


Only by the wildest stretch of the imagination could the situation of non-Muslims under Islamic law be seen as one conferring equal citizenship, whatever Muslim apologists claim. Similarly, only a leap of fantasy could ever believe that such a situation is one that non-Muslims would welcome. The honour, dignity, equality and even the lives of non-Muslims are by no means guaranteed under Islamic law. The Jizyah tax in particular demonstrates the constitutional inferiority and humiliation such a legal arrangement confers. For non-Muslims, it is rather like permanently walking under the sword of Damocles, ready to fall at any moment. If Muslims wish Christians and others to regard an Islamic political order as something attractive, their scholars had best engage in a some heavy work of ijtihad to revise those elements of Islamic jurisprudence and legislation which are particularly offensive to non-Muslims.

If you have the capability, send all the preceding to your government Reps.





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